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I’ve published two issues of The Digital Health Newsletter since last week’s group announcement. I’ve copied and pasted the text from each newsletter below for better web-search (SEO) and archival purposes.
In their latest Internet Trends Report, Silicon Valley-based venture capital (VC) firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and Mary Meeker have essentially corroborated my inclusion of genomics in the definition of digital health. A whopping seven pages in the “Healthcare @ Digital Inflection Point” section of the report—authored by Digital Health LinkedIn group member and KPCB general partner Noah Knauf—are focused on genomics. Keep in mind that this is the most authoritative report focused on relevant consumer and business trends of the Internet, not life sciences. For insights into the healthcare aspects of the report, Chrissy Farr at CNBC wrote a great piece explaining how it “shows how Silicon Valley thinks it can take over health care“.
EHR provider eClinicalWorks has agreed to pay $155 million to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging, among other things, that it faked meaningful use certification by not satisfying the data portability requirements designed to enable doctors to transfer patient data into other vendors’ EHRs and that it gave its customers kickbacks for publicly promoting its products. Eugenia Cowles, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, stated that “This resolution demonstrates that EHR companies will not succeed in flouting the certification requirements” that EHR vendors must meet under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s HITECH Act. And Chrissy Farr was also pointed in her tweet: “Taxpayers were supposed to benefit from medical data exchange. But companies flouted rules b/c walled gardens = $$”. I found it fascinating that the whistleblower who filed the lawsuit will receive approximately $30 million as part of the resolution.
FUNDING & M&A
Outcome Health just raised close to $600 million in funding, giving the company a $5 billion valuation. The company provides video screens and tablets in healthcare provider waiting rooms and exam rooms that are used to help educate patients about their diseases and treatment options. According to CEO Rishi Shah, “We want to be in every exam room in the world,” and “bring all the available information and intelligence in the world to help docs and patients make the best decision every time.”
Grail, the startup company formed by Illumina that’s working to create a blood test to detect cancer at the very earliest stages (tantamount to a cure, in some cases), has merged with China’s Cirina, a blood-based diagnostics company. Cirina’s founder Dennis Lo became famous for discovering that tiny bits of fetal DNA circulate in the blood of pregnant women. This in turn led to blood-based diagnostic tests that detect Down Syndrome. Grail has previously raised $900 million in funding.
KIDS & PARENTING
A new virtual assistant named AI Buddy uses animated characters to help support kids of military families while their parents are deployed to war or, in worst case scenarios, if they don’t make it back. According to co-developers We Believers, Vidax Center, and Clowder Tank, since 2001 more than 3 million children in the world have had one of their parents deployed and thousands of them have lost a parent due to war. These children experience high rates of mental health problems, with 1 in 4 reported to have considered suicide. AI Buddy stays in contact throughout the day, sending messages and constantly checking physical inputs to detect possible emergencies, plus uses information available online to help with homework. A life-size version plays with them through VR, or puts them to sleep with a bedtime story. At the end of the day, it shares updates about the kids with the rest of the family. If the parent passed away, AI Buddy will help with the transition and it will deactivate after a careful process.
Researchers report that parents who constantly check their phones and computers (i.e. tech obsessives) are more likely to have kids who misbehave than people who are less obsessed with being constantly online. The study relied on survey data from 170 families. According to lead author Brandon McDaniel of Illinois State University, “Prior studies have shown us that some parents can be quite absorbed by their devices and that when they are absorbed it seems like it is difficult for children to get their attention. No prior studies however had linked parent technology use, especially use that interrupts or interferes with parent-child interactions, with child behavior problems specifically. What is especially new here is that even minor, everyday intrusions of technology that are likely happening to all of us that have and use smartphones can begin to influence our children’s behavior.”
Facebook is preparing to roll out a new teen messaging app. According to The Information (subscription required), the company is “trying to find more ways to get younger people to use its apps, potentially by creating a teen-oriented messaging service that gives parents more control over whom their kids can contact.” While parental control is perhaps a good thing, as I recently shared, social media like Facebook can have negative effects on teens.
In a new project that could potentially avert the next Flint, MI health catastrophe, Detroit is imagining a citizen-led smart city. While the stereotypical “smart city” is an urban metropolis permeated with wireless sensors tracking everything from weather, to water flow, to gunshots, to car and foot traffic, to temperature, to air quality (including pollution and pollen), and more, all controlled by government and corporations, this new vision aims to put people in control. According to architect Rem Koolhaas, “The citizens the smart city claims to serve are treated like infants. We are fed cute icons of urban life, integrated with harmless devices, cohering into pleasant diagrams in which citizens and business are surrounded by more and more circles of service that create bubbles of control.” The project is called ‘ Sensors in a Shoebox’, and it aims to empower teen citizens with sensors and data so that they can better monitor, respond to (Asthma affects nearly one in six Detroit residents), and even reshape their own environment. Funding is provided via grants from the Knight Cities Challenge and the National Science Foundation.
Apple held its big product announcement event this week and for digital health fans expecting an Apple-made glucose monitoring sensor or device, it was a bit anticlimactic. Of course, the caveat is that the legal liability for a medical device is much different than for a consumer device, so it makes much more sense that Apple has instead expanded its partnership with glucose monitoring device-maker Dexcom via a new direct-to-Watch Bluetooth API. The API will also be available for other developers of Bluetooth-equipped bands and devices.
New sports and fitness capabilities for Apple Watch will include NFC-enabled wireless-syncing of treadmill and elliptical machine workout data via ‘Gym Connect’ . Partners represent the lion’s share of the gym equipment market: Life Fitness, Cybex, Schwinn, Star Trac, and StairMaster. Conspicuously absent is Peloton.
The ‘one more thing’ announcement is Apple’s $350 Siri speaker called HomePod. Famed Twitter user @SwiftOnSecurity humorously quipped that “Apple’s fitness product will be called HomeBod”. As in a ‘homebody’, a person who likes to stay at home, especially one who is perceived as unadventurous.
As I shared on LinkedIn, this cartoon is emblematic of the response of some stakeholder groups and sectors/industries to the disruption of digital health…
A new study shows that digital self-reporting of symptoms and side effects by patients with advanced cancer lived a median of five months longer than patients who only reported issues at the physician’s office. According to Ethan Basch, an oncologist at Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina, this is a “greater benefit than what’s provided by many targeted drugs for metastatic cancer.”
An HHS task force report on healthcare cybersecurity issued to the United States Congress states that healthcare cybersecurity is in critical condition due to a severe lack of security personnel, old equipment running vulnerable operating systems, and premature and over-connected systems driven, in part, by Meaningful Use requirements that were implemented without secure design.
Hyperpolarised MRI (h-MRI) imaging is being used to aid in the development of a new drug intended to reduce heart muscle inflammation following a heart attack. Other imaging methods used on heart attack patients are limited in how clearly they can show inflammation. By boosting the signal strength to more than 25,000 times that of traditional MRI, h-MRI can show the level of inflammation and thereby the effects of new drug treatments.
A new oral therapy drug is directly targeting an acquired genetic defect called TRK fusions that accelerate cancer cell growth. While not yet approved by the FDA, this would be a major advancement in precision medicine similar to Merck’s recently-approved immunotherapy drug that also targets specific genetic biomarkers regardless of where a tumor originates in the body.
A new cell and gene therapy treatment for multiple myeloma cancer is proving effective in driving cancer remission. A patient’s blood is filtered to remove immune system T cells, which are then altered to contain a cancer-targeting gene, and then reintroduced intravenously. While already being used to treat some forms of leukemia and lymphoma, the application to multiple myeloma is new.
A new artificial intelligence system can reportedly tell if a sheep is in pain. The system looks at five different facial expressions to determine the presence and severity of pain based on a standardized tool developed by veterinarians. The system has ethical implications in that it may be applied to improve the wellbeing of sheep, horses, and other animals.
By placing electrodes on the heads of mice, scientists are investigating the feasibility of performing deep brain stimulation without surgically implanting electrodes deep inside the head . Currently, deep brain stimulation can provide relief to patients with Parkinson’s and epilepsy. In this research, stimulation of the mouse’s hippocampus is possible because the brain is a natural conductor of electricity.
Copyright © 2017 Paul Sonnier
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